SUPER LEAGUE GRAND FINAL
Former Vodafone Warrior Lance Hohaia was brutally removed from the contest in the opening minutes but was able to return after fulltime to celebrate victory with his St Helens team-mates following their 14-6 Super League grand final win over Wigan at Old Trafford on Saturday.
It was the first title in more than seven years for Saints. Their last success was in the World Club Challenge in 2007 while they hadn’t taken out the Super League grand final since 2006 and haven’t won the Challenge Cup crown since 2002.
While he now has a Super League winner’s ring, Hohaia’s memory of his first triumph since joining Saints in 2012 is far from ideal.
The 31-year-old veteran was the victim of a violent attack by Wigan’s Ben Flower which resulted in the perpetrator predictably been sent off after just three minutes.
Flower appeared to take exception to Hohaia's use of a forearm on him during a Wigan attack and reacted by knocking him to the ground with a left hook. The Welsh international then struck his defenceless opponent with a second punch to his face while he lay motionless on the turf.
St Helens struggled for a long time to make their numerical advantage tell but second-rower Sia Soliola's try, on his final appearance in Super League, helped to put his side in front for the first time after 53 minutes, and winger Tom Makinson added a second 12 minutes from the end to clinch the title.
Apart from Hohaia and Soliola other New Zealanders involved in the match were St Helens front rower Mose Masoe and Wigan centre Anthony Gelling and interchange forward Eddy Pettybourne.
Vodafone Warriors fullback Sam Tomkins was side-line doing media work watching his former Wigan team-mates including his brother Joel.
Match details | Old Trafford, Manchester
St Helens 14 (Sia Soliola, Tom Makinson tries; Mark Percival 3 goals).
Wigan Warriors 6 (Joe Burgess try; Matty Smith goal).
Halftime: 6-2 Wigan.
Referee: Phil Bentham.
PIRTEK NZRL NATIONAL PREMIERSHIP
The 2014 Pirtek NZRL National Premiership final shapes as a rematch of last year's combatants, Akarana Falcons and Counties Manukau Stingrays.
For the fourth time in five years, the two Auckland-based sides have emerged as top qualifiers from the regular season, after the Stingrays easily accounted for Wellington Orcas 76-10 at Papakura today.
The result sees Counties sitting atop the ladder with five wins, a loss and a comfortable points-difference advantage in the three-way battle for final spots.
Falcons and Canterbury Bulls shared their 5-1 record, with the Bulls lagging behind on a count back, despite their 106-14 home win over the hapless Northern Swords yesterday.
A war of words still looms, after the Stingrays successfully appealed a charge of playing an ineligible player against Canterbury two weeks ago.
But, if on-field results hold, the old adversaries will contest the trophy again at Mt Smart Stadium next Saturday as curtain-raiser to the Junior Kiwis v Junior Kangaroos international. Akarana/Auckland has won all three previous showdowns.
Notwithstanding their loss to Akarana last month, the Stingrays have been the competition's most impressive performers all season, as they were last year, amassing an average 52-11 score-line across the seven rounds.
They were immediately on top against the Orcas and led 40-0 at the break.
Second row Eko Malu scored his second hat-trick of tries for the season, confirming his mantle as leading tryscoring for the competition, while Semisi Tyrell and Afatasi Collins managed try doubles.
Halfback Williams Stowers kicked nine goals to finish as the premiership's leading scorer.
Massey Park, Papakura
Counties Manukau Stingrays 76 (Eko Malu 3, Semisi Tyrell 2, Fatasi Collins 2, George Edwards, Filipine Jacob Ake, Carlos Hotene, Willie Stowers, Pakisonasi Afu, Tony Tuia, Terence Phillips tries; Willie Stowers 9 goals; Semisi Tyrell goals).
Wellington Orcas 10 (Ray Lesoa, Phillip Salevao tries; David Saumolia goal).
Referee: Jamal Thompson.
Denton Park, Christchurch
Canterbury Bulls 106 (Cyrus Timo-Latu 3, Manu Weepu 3, Vinnie Paul 2, Chris Bamford 2, Dan Moevao 2, Ken Tofilau, Bruce Havea, Toi Sepuloni, Izic Placid, Jack Mundy, Corey Lawrie, Kyle Leka tries; Toi Sepuloni 12 goals; Dan Moevao 3 goals).
Northern Swords 14 (Joel Freeman 2, Rikki Tarau tries; Moses Cooper goal).
Referee: Jason Wilson.
Yarrow Stadium, New Plymouth
Akarana Falcons 70 (Taylor Daniels 3, Jeremiah Faaumuumu 2, Soape Kavaliku 2, Simon Ieremia, Mao Uta, Semisi Fotu, Levi Norton, Semisi Mau, Siliga Kepaoa tries; Simon Ieremia 5 goals; Cody Walker 4 goals).
Central Vipers 12 (Haze Reweti, Jaxon Tamati tries; Dylan Hall 2 goals).
Referee: Chris McMillan.